The ports of Bangladesh play a crucial role in the country’s economy and trade. Being a coastal country, Bangladesh has several ports, and Chittagong port is one of the main and oldest seaports in Bangladesh. Located in the southern part of the country, the Chittagong port handles the majority of Bangladesh’s imports and exports, including raw materials, finished goods, and agricultural products. On the other hand, Chittagong port is also an important contributor to the country’s GDP and employment as it supports a range of industries, including shipping, logistics, and manufacturing. In addition to its economic importance, it is also a key contributor to the country’s infrastructure, as it plays a vital role in the development and maintenance of roads, rail lines, and other transportation networks.
History of the Chittagong Port
Located on the Bay Of Bengal in South Asia, Bangladesh has a long history of maritime trade. Dated back to the 4th century BC, Chittagong was known as “ Shetgang,” which meant “Delta Of The Ganges.” In the 9th century, Omani and Yemeni traders were the first to discover this port. Back then, they recognized it as a vital center for commerce and business due to its location and natural harbor. Later in the 14th century, Moroccan traveler Ibn Batuta and Italian merchant Niccolo De Conti also visited this port. However, at the beginning of colonialism, the Portuguese were the first Europeans that tried to take control of the Chittagong port. Later in 1887, this port came under the first administrative and policy-making structure. In the same year, the port’s current location was selected by the authority. In 1910, 4 jetties were built with a target of handling 0.5 million tons of cargo annually. In 1960, the Chittagong port trust was established to manage port rail. During that time, the port was governed by the port railway and the port commissioners. After the liberation war, the Chittagong port trust was dismantled. Later in 1976, the Chittagong port authority was established, and since then, the port has been governed by the Chittagong port authority.
Importance of the Chittagong Port
Sea Ports have been important to civilization and trade for thousands of years. Even today, ports play an important role in any economy because 80 percent of the world’s traded goods are transported by sea. According to The Daily Star, Chittagong port handled 32.55 lakh twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) cargo in FY 2021-22, which is 5.11 percent more than the previous year. Currently, 92 percent of Bangladesh’s foreign trade activities are done through Chittagong Port. During the Corona pandemic, when the activities of some of the world’s busiest ports were at a standstill, the Chittagong port was not closed even for a day. Hence, Bangladesh was in a good economic position in terms of foreign trade despite the outbreak.
Although air transport is a more convenient and time-saving option for goods, to keep the operation cost-efficient, coastal countries use maritime trade systems. Every year Bangladesh imports food grains, sugar, fertilizers, cement, crude oil, and petroleum. In particular, due to the food grains brought using this port to overcome the food crisis, it has been possible to meet the food demand of the country. On the other hand, jute, tea, ready-made garments (RMG), leather, frozen fish, and shrimp are the main export products of Bangladesh. In FY22, Bangladesh had total export earnings of $52.08 billion, a large portion of which were transported through Chittagong port. Due to its significant contribution to the country’s foreign trade, this seaport is called the “Gateway of Bangladesh.”
Since Bangladesh’s independence, Chittagong port has proved itself to be highly important for the country’s economy and maximized the country’s economic potential multiple times. This port has played a significant role in the success of Bangladesh’s Vision 2021. During that period, Chittagong port moved up six places from 64 to 58 on Lloyd’s List. To meet the challenges of the 21st century and fulfill vision 2041, various development projects and plans are being undertaken.
Since more than 90 percent of Bangladesh’s export-import activities are being done at Chittagong Port, not only Chittagong port generates more than $30 billion each year, but also it contributes to various developmental activities of the country. These include shipbuilding, textiles, and chemicals, which rely on the port as a gateway for the export of their products. Along with Bangladesh, three other countries – India, Nepal, and Bhutan also use this as a transit port. So, allowing these countries to use the port also brings huge revenue, which contributes toward the development of Bangladesh’s economy.
Many materials which are needed for ongoing megaprojects and industrial construction processes in Bangladesh are being imported through this port.On the other hand, by exporting various products made in Bangladesh, this port is helping Bangladesh to increase its foreign reserves. Moreover, it is also positively impacting the reputation of Bangladesh abroad.
In recent years, the government of Bangladesh has made significant investments in the port of Chittagong to improve its capacity and efficiency. These investments have included the construction of new terminal facilities, the expansion of existing terminals, and the development of new port-related infrastructure. These efforts have helped to increase the port’s capacity and efficiency, making it an even more important contributor to the regional economy.
Apart from its role in facilitating trade, Chittagong Port also supports the growth of industries through its role in the country’s infrastructure. There has been a lot of industrial development in the surrounding areas of Chittagong port. These industries are mainly engaged in import and export business. Therefore, these factories are built near the port to reduce the cost of transportation. Chittagong Port supports the country’s industries by providing a gateway for importing raw materials and other inputs needed for production. This helps to ensure that industries have easy access to the resources they need to operate and grow. Additionally, the port helps to export finished goods and other products manufactured in Bangladesh, contributing to the country’s economic growth. The port is a key link in the region’s transportation network, connecting Bangladesh to other countries in South and Southeast Asia. This helps to facilitate the movement of goods and people, which in return supports the growth of industries.
Chittagong Port has been a positive driver for employment, which has created job opportunities for the local population. Over 8,000 people work in the Chittagong port, where 31.9% of people work in the port and 33.3% are posted in customs jobs. Moreover, due to industrialization around the port, a lot of employment opportunities have been created for the locals of the port area. Apart from the local area, people of various professions from different parts of the country and many foreigners are also working here. Thus, unemployment has decreased in the country, while at the same time, the standard of living of the country’s citizens have improved.
Overall, the Chittagong Port is a vital component of the economy of Bangladesh and plays a crucial role in the country’s trade and development. With continued investment and reform, the port has the potential to become a major hub for international trade in South Asia.